Why ?

A clown talks to the human soul and the more tormented the soul, the more need for a clown

Why ?

Today’s society has fallen on hard times. We, the citizens of the world suffer the yoke of economic dictatorship which rejects the economically non-profitable among us who are increasingly numerous. Poverty, tension, wars throughout the world and fear (the mother of all violence) make us sad and the deadly 11th September 2001 only made things worse.

Today, some of the world’s clowns have decided to set up « the army of clowns », a pacifist army whose mission is to put a big red nose on the world !

« Clowning is not a job but a way of life »
(Jango Edwards)

In the difficult times we are going through now, I am convinced that clowns have an important social role to play. What’s more, in my opinion, the role of a clown is not limited to being funny on a stage or during a show, but to doing everything he can every day and in all circumstances to make people laugh ; and through laughter, offer love and transform moments of tension, pain and difficult situations thanks to laughter.
As the Dalai Lama would say, “Laughter allows us to create space where freedom can grow”...and I think he knows what he is talking about.

I remember what Peter Pitowsky, an extraordinary American clown and acrobat I met at the Montreux festival of laughter, used to say to me : “I was put on earth with a mission, that of making people laugh and I do that to the best of my ability, as I am sure that if I go back up to heaven one day and I haven’t done it, God will scold me and I don’t want that”.

The clown has his place in today’s society, I would even say he is a necessity, but I think he doesn’t yet have the place he deserves. Have you ever heard a child say “I’m going to be a clown when I grow up” ?

Here are two anecdotes that I heard :

-  The day that I went to enrol my 12 years old daughter in a secondary school of the town where we were living (Huy-Belgium), the assistant head mistress asked us a few questions to help fill out the enrolment form :
The Head : « Mother’s profession ? »
My daughter : « IT engineer »
The Head : « OK... Father’s profession ? »
My daughter : « Clown »
The Head (sitting up straighter on her chair, visibly irritated and adopting a harsh tone) : « No. Seriously please ! »
My daughter : « Er..well...clown »
The Head (increasingly irritated) : “Right, I will write comedian !”
So, you can see where our wonderful profession is at, categorically refused on educational forms ...in Belgium anyway. There is work to be done...

-  The other, happily, makes up for the silliness of the first : One day I was walking in the gardens of Alhambra in Grenada where I was assisting my friend and teacher Carlo Colombaioni, I met two Israeli doctors who were there for a medical conference, we spoke together, and we laughed together and as they left me they said that, at the end of the day, we both did the same job, except that I worked preventively and that if I did my job well, they would have less work. What a wonderful gift of recognition to the clowning profession for services rendered.

World Clown

At the time of the release of his album “US”, Peter Gabriel explained the title as follows : “Some people place the individuals that make up this world into two distinct boxes, one is marked ‘Us’, and the other ‘Them’. Others, like myself, place everyone in the same box marked ‘Us’.” I completely agree with this way of looking at the world and human relations. All my respect to you, Mr Gabriel.

We should, I think, be far more aware of a deep-seated law of humanity which dictates that all humanity should be as one. So how should we deal with conflict and aggression ?
I don’t believe that either victimisation or violence is the solution.

White cells, my friend

When aggression kicks in, an interesting reactive strategy is that of the white cell. When the white cells of our organism are faced with an adversary, in order to defend their territory, they integrate the adversary rather than killing it. This work of integration of adversaries should replace the tactic of murdering the enemy, and that is a big difference between the concept of war and strategy.

Unfortunately, so far, humanity only seems to have the childish vision of killing the enemy, without realising that in doing so, we kill ourselves. ... In my opinion, when Christ asked us to turn the other cheek in the gospels, he was, in fact, asking us to remember a time, now forgotten, when we may have hit out at someone ourselves.

Today’s society talks of “values” such as competition and personal wealth (at the expense of others). We spend ridiculous sums of taxpayers’ money sending rockets and men to the moon while billions of people are denied the basic dignities of life : water, food, housing, health, education.


-  Today 1,400,000,000 people have no access to safe drinking water.
-  Each day, 30,000 people (in other words 10 times more than the number of victims of the 11th September) die from diseases caused by a lack of clean drinking water. Can that not be called “institutional terrorism” and therefore fought as a priority ?
-  The UN has predicted that in 2032 two thirds of the world’s population will be without safe drinking water.
-  Today, the 14 richest families in the world have annual incomes higher than those of the 14 poorest countries.
-  If the 200 richest families of the world donated just 4% of their annual incomes, we could feed the whole world. The earth has enough food for everyone. In the west we throw away surplus food in order to safeguard prices. Therefore, we deliberately choose to let people die of hunger in order to protect the “market”.

And yet it seems that the eradication of poverty is not a priority at any level.
It even seems that in high places other solutions have been thought up : In 2003, a Scottish company supplied the Pentagon with the first robot soldier. A robot whose assignment is to kill people “cleanly”, the now infamous “clean war” ! Instead of seeing others as brothers, we see them as enemies to be eliminated.
Our society, we all know is at an important crossroads of its history. We are all in the same boat and a society that doesn’t have a collective goal will get nowhere. I think that, either we get there together, or we won’t get there at all.
We are “sold” the idea that poverty is natural and inevitable. We all accept it as fact even though it is possible, (it’s just a question of choice) to make poverty, and the economic mechanisms that lead to it, illegal as is the case in certain Nordic countries.

Tomorrow ?

Our society will not have earned the name ‘society’ until the day when each member has done everything in their power to create the conditions in which every human being has the right to life.

That’s why, I think that the clown, above and beyond his primary essential role of making people laugh, also has a social role to play, a soul-searching role. At least that’s the way I see it, because I believe in mankind and especially in children who will (or won’t) build this fairer...and funnier society !

Helping young and old to rediscover laughter ; to rediscover the clown inside ; to see life differently ; to free themselves from their usual “mental restraints” ; to become true players in society by refusing to just be passive “idiot” consumers and to become the architects of their own lives, which are wonderful because in each second we can influence the second to come. Such is my mission.

(Thanks to Annick de Souzenelle and Riccardo Petrella)